Via USA Rugby’s monthly e-mail newsletter (a good PR tool by the way!) … five myths about women’s rugby as a NCAA sport.

The Top 5 Myths of NCAA Women’s Rugby

Myth #1
“The culture of rugby will no longer be fun and the NCAA makes too many rules.”

While NCAA’s structure is most certainly accompanied by an array of by-laws and policies, the idea that the “fun” will be removed from the sport due to newfound adherence to these policies is unfounded. You will find within the current student-athlete population, the structure and basis of the rules has provided quite the opposite with many examples.

If you are a fan of the Men’s and Women’s Basketball NCAA Final Four, these studentathletes can certainly testify that the NCAA has added to the experience of the sport, rather than minimized. Structure and policy is a positive concept to the intercollegiate athlete that provides a sound foundation for a high level of athletic and academic achievement. If club rugby is insistent that “rugby culture” will be diluted from membership in the NCAA, the solution is to look at a sport such as ice hockey. This sport has its own reputation and culture but is still in inclusion in intercollegiate athletics while maintaining this culture at the varsity level.

Myth #2
“Rugby is a traditional, social sport that cannot be changed without affecting the sport”

While much of the tradition in the sport as a whole has included the social image and rough-nature, intercollegiate status projects a more positive image that many club programs already adhere to.

Competitive play at NCAA level can assist in the steps to presenting a positive image in the eyes of the public.

Myth #3
“Varsity rugby takes away club opportunities and if implemented will erase club rugby entirely”

This myth is popular and very prevalent but far from correct. The concept of club sports was around long before the structure of varsity was in existence. As you may know, the powerhouse intercollegiate athletics including football dates back to club participation up RC until 1906 when the NCAA was founded. Club sports such as tennis, soccer, softball, basketball, cannot be erased from the system and rugby is no different. The creation of women’s varsity rugby is not taking away, yet adding another option or additional opportunity in the sport.

Myth #4
“Varsity student-athletes cannot participate on the Women’s National Team”

The USA Rugby Women’s National Team coaches, players and administration recognize that varsity athletics can be a positive addition to any National Team. NCAA eligibility Rules do not prevent participation on most sporting bodies’ National Teams, but USA Rugby may need to provide alternative pathways for varsity student-athletes to be considered for the National Team that will not violate NCAA student-athlete eligibility.

You will find that the USA’s most well-known women’s national teams — Soccer WNT and Softball WNT — consist entirely of former or current NCAA athletes, so it is clear that other sports follow the model of varsity athletics to dominance on the world stage!

Myth #5

“If we become varsity we won’t be able to participate in the national championship”

This decision is strictly decided by the individual institution and its internal athletic departmental policy. Regular season mixed schedules of club and varsity is a must during the early stages of development as new teams are added. In order to expand the credibility of women’s varsity rugby at the NCAA level, the initiative works toward achieving an all-varsity championship. This in turn, has no effect on the existence of the club national championship.

In order to reach a true intercollegiate championship of NCAA status and fully be recognized with this status, women’s rugby must achieve membership of 40 teams.

I have heard a lot of this, both from college teams (like my own alma mater) that are just trying to be taken more seriously and teams that are trying to become varsity.

The myths concerning our “rugby culture” are such a thorn, aren’t they? It’s a nice way of saying that if college women’s team go varsity, they can’t party anymore. It’s such a fine line, between working hard and being more competitive, yet wanting to retain all of the social trappings that get passed on through teams.

All I know is that when I learned to play rugby, we partied our asses off but we didn’t win many games. In fact, I didn’t even know what select-side was until I was a senior in college. Granted, some of this is due to being old enough to remember when you just played whoever you felt like playing, not conferences and qualifying, etc. But I also know that when you take yourself more seriously, there are more gratifying experiences to remember than how many beers you drank at the third-half last weekend.

ADDED: Via the comments, here are the posts related to rugby as an NCAA sport with lots of solid discussion.

Technorati Tags:



Filed under NCAA

5 responses to “Myths

  1. Kentucky

    Wow…okay I have a lot to say about this subject as a player who has played on two very different college club teams, The Univ. of Kentucky (DII), and the Univ. of Northern Iowa, as well as playing on numerous select-sides including the midwest U23’s as well as the u19 and u23 GNT…also of note is that when I made the decision my sophmore year to transfer from Kentucky to a college and team that could offer me more chances to develop as a player, I was being recruited by Easter Illinois University – the only “NCAA Varsity” women’s rugby team. Let me just say that my fears about NCAA rugby stem from this experience and from EIU’s policies and attitude toward the rugby experience at their institution, as well as Coach Graziano’s personal goal of spreading his particular brand of rugby across the country. Now, this not to say that his team isn’t great, that he doesn’t have amazing athletes, and that he himself isn’t a very good coach (after all, he was involved with coach the U23 GNT a few years back). This also isn’t to say that I wasn’t extremely attracted to the prospect of playing for a team that would PAY me to play. Imagine that? Imagine not having to buy your own boots or your own plane tickets or socks or food, etc, etc…and the list goes on and on. As it is, I spend WAY too much of my own and my parents money playing this sport – so let me just say that these offers were very attractive. I was also interested in the aspect of having constant coaching on the field, in the weight room, etc. On my own team we only practice twice a week, and all my outside conditioning is done on my own (usually in the wee hours of the morning because our school’s free weight room times are restricted for non-student athletes). It has been my goal for some time to eventually become an eagle, and all this extra help with everythign from passing to lifting to improving my 40 time seemed seriously advantageous to me….

    But now here’s where it gets interesting: the first thing I was told was that I would no longer be able to play select-sides. This INCLUDED any invitations to play for my country as I had for U19’s the previous summer. Also, I was told that rugby was not only only played in the fall, but that we COULD NOT, according to NCAA rules, participate in any national championships which were not made up entirely of NCAA varsity teams. Also, rugby would only be played in the fall – and in the off season players are supposed to play other intramural sports so as not to “burn out”…As for my aspirations to make the Senior National Team??? Well, I was told that would be “our little secret” and no one would “have to know about that”. I’m assuming this is because Graziano doesn’t want to peak interest about the “other side”…but who knows.

    As for the culture? This is where it gets really hard to stomach. At EIU, women’s rugby players were not supposed to associate with the men’s rugby players or go to their games, only with the other student-athletes. Also, at away games, I was supposed to be impressed by the fact that WE would get to use the opposing team’s varsity athlete facilities even though they did not, and that there would be no comraderie between ourselves and our opposition – that we would come silently, shake their hands, and then leave. Now, I’m not saying there needs to be a keg party or anything, but a few minutes to say hello to friends after the game and talk to other amazing players with the same passion for the sport would be nice! I’m also intrigued by the lingo used by this particular team. Poaches become “steals”, and I’m always amused to see lists of who had the most “runs over 20 yards” in a game. My question: who measures these yards? and when the ball is kicked away five seconds later because whoever the ball runner was didn’t communicat with their support, is that also listed? I’m sorry that sort of thing just really ticks me off….

    And finally, the biggest insult to my rugby ego…and perhaps everyone may not understand this, perhaps it’s just a scrumhalf thing, but here goes: I was told I would get to “pick” my own number and put my name on the back of my jersey and that I would keep that number forever… response?: But, I’m number 9. I’m a scrumhalf. Apparently they already had a number 9……In rugby, the number on your back is the number you earn. Whenever I’m forced to wear the number 20, that’s just that much more motivation for me to work harder, to EARN that #9….to be permanantly labeled #17, or *gasp* even say, #32….maybe I’m being old fashioned but my stomach turns a little at the thought.

    At any rate….I believe that varsity rugby is the wave of the future – that it could do so much for the sport and for the players and in developing national teams that could compete with the New Zealands of the world. However, not at this price. If the things listed in the “Myths” article truly ARE myths, then I am all for NCAA teams…..I just can’t help but fear the things I saw at the only school which has so far made this transition…..

  2. Anonymous


    Good comments, and it sounds like your experience with varsity rugby was pretty crappy. 😦 Blondie posted about this a while ago and you can see other responses there (search her blog for NCAA) … but just FYI; EIU ISN’T the only varsity rugby program in the country, there’s at least one in MARFU (DI – Westchester) and one in NERFU (DII – Bowdoin College), both unions that I have played in, and I even played ‘varsity’ rugby for Bowdoin (2 out of my 4 years there), and had a great experience with it. It seems that EIU’s interpretation of NCAA rules are very strict, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When I played at Bowdoin we had a lot of work between coaches and the althetic program to uphold the good aspects of rugby (such as its ‘culture’ and sportsmanship) and also improve areas that needed work ( mainly funding: for kits – so not every rookie has to dish out $100, fess for a pre-season clinic with WNT coaches, transportation and tournament fees). Overall, for Bowdoin at least, the transition to varsity has been fairly smooth and has I think helped to increase the athletic ability of the women that now play, at least in part resulting in their first ever bid to the DII National Championships this spring! (Go U Bears)

    Anyway I hope that my observations help people when thinking about the pros and cons of women’s rugby as a varsity sport.

    ~ Puffy aka Acorn

  3. Kentucky

    I’m sorry I didn’t mean to make it sound like EIU was the only varsity rugby team. I’m aware that Westchester, Vassar and some others are also varsity, I was only referring to EIU as the only NCAA Div. I team. Sorry I probably didn’t make that clear enough. And like I said, I would LOVE for rugby to become a varsity sport with all the marketability and advantages of other sports…I just want to make sure whoever decides the rules doesn’t go along with the things I have seen at EIU…

    It’s also notable that Northern Iowa, where I currently go to school, has been in the works of establishing itself as an NCAA DI women’s rugby team as well…but we havne’t yet got the OK to go ahead with this. Our coach and the univesity is adament that we coudl still participate in select-sides as well as national championships -so that would be AWESOME.

    I only wanted to voice my experience with EIU so that there is an understanding of both sides and to make sure that as more teams turn varsity the things we love about rugby and the opportunities to play internationally (if one so desires) are preserved…

    P.S. Good luck to Bowdoin at DII nationals!!!

  4. Kentucky

    After reading the posts from the other NCAA section, I was pleased to see that so many people had witnessed the same problems I have with EIU, and were willing to defend rugby against a program like this. It’s encouraging to see that so many people care as much as I do!

    As for the comments one “anonymous” poster wrote about club athletes as “recreational athletes”…well, I was just wondering how all those “NCAA student-athletes” at EIU feel when getting beaten by a team of Texas A&M recreational athletes?? Not a sting on what I’m sure are great players at EIU, just saying that maybe there’s not so big a difference after all…..I’d also like to say that those comments are suspiciously similiar to the rhetoric I was fed through emails and on my recruiting visit to EIU by a certain coach…. hmm…remarkably similar in fact…

    Oh well, I just hope we can take care of rugby, and when it does (and it likely will) go varsity, we can find a way to blend the sport in a positive way for all.

  5. Anonymous

    KENTUCKY YOU ARE THE BIGGEST LAUGH EVER. Just to let you know, “Kentucky” came for an EIU visit and wasn’t down with all the strength and conditioning requirements to be a varsity athlete. The same regime that track runners and softball players must undergo, it’s part of the lifestyle.

    For the record, it was not her choice NOT to go to EIU, rather a choice that her idea of rugby was more one big drink fest of fun and socialization. Isn’t that part of the rumor this sport is trying to dispel? Sorry but, this is not something the program would be willing to commit to. No soccer coach in the NCAA or any of the other sports would take on an athlete who is only interested in herself and the idea of as a being party athlete. NCAA athletics is also an institution for student-athlete development.

    The only development she wanted was the spotlight on herself and no one else. That’s why she bashes on it. Up against track, soccer, swimming and other multi-sport athletes she was ill in comparison. Go ahead and talk about Coach Graziano all you want. Nothing new, most people who do it have never even been to a game at EIU or Coach Graziano. He went to almost all of our track events at home and advocates huge support for all the athletic teams. His teams went and I imagine, still attend the other athletic events as well in support of EIU.

    If this girl knew anything about the NCAA at all she would shut up her mouth because the select side stuff is a whole new ball of wax. Would a track athlete be able to leave the middle of her season and go run club track, no it’s called student-athlete season of competition and eligibility. No, the investment of a student-athlete comes with provisions. Sorry, Kentucky does not like structure. I saw the myths posted on the USA Rugby’s original article. Did she not read about the outside competition? If not, read closer.

    Each of this girl’s ridiculous statements come with no back up other than her personal feelings. Check the NCAA rules on one jersey number per athlete and the number does not change so there are no discrepancies in roster. The same goes for all the other sports. Hating on rugby in the NCAA for following all the same rules as the other sports is pretty popular but these are the people who cannot see the big picture.

    It was almost comical to read this but it’s much easier to bash NCAA rugby than support it because it requires some education to understand. This kid obviously did not ask the right questions but went in with her own mindset. How sad for her. (This same kid blogs all over trying to stop the NCAA machine because she is bitter. I would be too if I was her).

    I am a former student-athlete from the track team who went to the recruit dinner with some of my roommates who were on the women’s rugby team at the time. This kid was looking for some special treatment and when she thought she wouldn’t be the star she flaked out and ran away. At the dinner talking to her about anything was like pulling teeth, she didn’t want any part of them but wasted team money on a visit just so she could throw stones and write crap blogs everywhere. I would like to think the readers of this blog can see a phony when they read one.

    Attacking EIU to hinder the growth of all women’s rugby only makes you foolish. The expansion isn’t about making club rugby players feel inferior, it’s about opportunity that should be afforded to female rugby athletes.

    Also, Kentucky, check the archives, EIU beat Stanford pretty back in 2003 and there was not a word mentioned about it. Guess you get to pick and choose what games you bring up like Texas A&M huh Tiffany? But it’s not about the publicity, it’s about doing something other people are afraid to do and knowing that you a part of something bigger.

    EIU rugby team members don’t need to defend themselves against you but I don’t mind telling the truth at all.

    Fellow athletic teams on campus INCLUDING the track team think the rugby team is great and admire what they did and do for the school and community. Take a hike with your one-sided thinking Kentucky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s